Articles by Frederick Engels for The Northern Star 1846

Government and Opposition In France

Source: MECW Volume 6, p. 61;
Written: about September 1, 1846;
First published: in The Northern Star No. 460, September 5, 1846.

The Chambers are now assembled. The Chamber of Peers have, as usual, nothing to do, now that they have disposed of the case of Joseph Henry, the new-fashioned regicide. The Chamber of Deputies are busily engaged in verifying the returns of members, and they profit by this opportunity to show the spirit which animates them. Never, since the revolution of 1830, has there been displayed such bare-faced impudence and contempt of public opinion. Three-fifths, at least, of the Deputies are thorough friends of the ministry; or, in other words, either great capitalists, stock-jobbers and railway speculators of the Paris Exchange, bankers, large manufacturers, etc., or their obedient servants. The present legislature is, more than any preceding one, the fulfilment of the words of Laffitte, the day after the revolution of July: Henceforth we, the bankers, shall govern France. It is the most striking proof that the government of France is in the hands of the great monied aristocracy, the haute-bourgeoisie. The fate of France is decided, not in the Cabinet of the Tuileries,[50] not in the Palace of Peers, not even in the Palace of Deputies, but on the Exchange of Paris. The actual ministers are not Messrs. Guizot and Duchâtel, but Messrs. Rothschild, Fould, and the rest of the large Paris bankers, whose tremendous fortunes make them the most eminent representatives of the rest of their class. They govern the ministry, and the ministry take care that in the elections none but men devoted to the present system, and to those who profit by this system, are carried. This time they have had a most signal success; government patronage and bribery of every description, united to the influence of the chief capitalists, upon a limited number of voters (less than 200,000), who all belong, more or less, to their own class, the terror spread among monied men by the timely attempt to shoot the king, and ultimately the certainty that Louis-Philippe will not survive the present Chambers (whose powers expire in 1851), all these things united were sufficient to quench all serious opposition in most of the elective assemblies. And now, this precious Chamber having met, they take proper care of themselves. The independent electors have sent in hundreds of petitions and protests against the returns of ministerial members, stating and proving, or offering to prove, that almost in every case the elections have been carried by the grossest illegalities committed by government officers; proving bribery, corruption, intimidation, patronage of every description to have been employed. But the majority never take the slightest notice of these facts. Every opposition deputy who raises his voice to protest against such abomination is hooted down by hisses, noise, or cries of “Division, division”. Every illegality is covered by a sanctioning vote. The money lords rejoice in their strength, and guessing it will not last very long, they make the best of the present moment.

You may easily imagine that out of this narrow circle of capitalists there exists a general opposition against the present government, and those whose interests it serves. The centre of this opposition is Paris, where the money lords have so little influence upon constituencies, that of the fourteen deputies of the department of the Seine only two are ministerialists and twelve belong to the opposition. The majority of the middle class, voters of Paris, belong to the party of Thiers and O. Barrot; they want to do away with the exclusive rule of Rothschild and Co., to recover an honourable and independent position for France in her external relations, and perhaps a little bit of electoral reform. The majority of non-voting tradesmen, shopkeepers, etc., are of a more radical cast, and demand an electoral reform, which would give them the vote; a number of them are also partisans of the National or Réforme, and join themselves to the democratic party, which embraces the great bulk of the working classes, and is itself divided into different sections, the most numerous of which, at least in Paris, is formed by the Communists. The present system is attacked by all these different sections, and, of course, by each in a different manner. But there has been started, a short time ago, a new mode of attack which deserves to be mentioned. A working man has written a pamphlet against the head of the system, not against Louis-Philippe, but against “Rothschild I. King of the Jews”. [by G. M. Dairnvaell] The success of this pamphlet (it has now gone through some twenty editions) shows how much this was an attack in the right direction. King Rothschild has been obliged to publish two defences against these attacks of a man whom nobody knows, and the whole of whose property consists in the suit of clothes he wears. The public have taken up the controversy with the greatest interest. Some thirty pamphlets have been published pro and con. The hatred against Rothschild and the money lords is enormous, and a German paper says, Rothschild might take this as a warning that he had better take up his headquarters somewhere else than upon the ever-burning volcano of Paris.